Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Signed Edition)

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (Signed Edition)

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by Thomas Cahill

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In the fourth volume of the acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill brings his characteristic wit and style to a fascinating tour of ancient Greece.
The Greeks invented everything from Western warfare to mystical prayer, from logic to statecraft. Many of their achievements, particularly in art and philosophy, are widely celebrated; other


In the fourth volume of the acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill brings his characteristic wit and style to a fascinating tour of ancient Greece.
The Greeks invented everything from Western warfare to mystical prayer, from logic to statecraft. Many of their achievements, particularly in art and philosophy, are widely celebrated; other important innovations and accomplishments, however, are unknown or underappreciated. In Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, Thomas Cahill explores the legacy, good and bad, of the ancient Greeks. From the origins of Greek culture in the migrations of armed Indo-European tribes into Attica and the Peloponnesian peninsula, to the formation of the city-states, to the birth of Western literature, poetry, drama, philosophy, art, and architecture, Cahill makes the distant past relevant to the present.
Greek society is one of the two primeval influences on the Western world: While Jews gave us our value system, the Greeks set the foundation and framework for our intellectual lives. They are responsible for our vocabulary, our logic, and our entire system of categorization. They provided the intellectual tools we bring to bear on problems in philosophy, mathematics, medicine, physics, and the other sciences. Their modes of thinking, considered in classical times to be the pinnacle of human achievement, are largely responsible for the shape that the Christian religion took. But, as Cahill points out, the Greeks left a less appealing bequest as well. They created Western militarism and, in making the warrior the ultimate ideal, perpetrated the assumption that only males could be entrusted with the duties of citizenship. Theconsequences of their exclusion of women from the political sphere and the social segregation of the sexes continue to reverberate today. Full of surprising, often controversial, insights, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea is a remarkable intellectual adventure—conducted by the most companionable guide imaginable. Cahill's knowledge of his sources is so intimate that he has made his own fresh translations of the Greek lyric poets for this volume.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this elegant introduction to Greek life and thought, Cahill provides the same majestic historical survey he has already offered for the Irish, the Jews and the Christians. He eloquently narrates the rise of Greek civilization and cannily isolates six archetypal figures representative of the development of Greek thinking. He opens with a consideration of Homer's Iliad and its glorification of the warrior way as an exemplum of life in the Greek state. Cahill then proceeds to offer an evolutionary look at the rise and fall of Greece by examining the wanderer (Odysseus), the politician (Solon), the playwright (Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides), the poet (Sappho), the philosopher (the pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle) and the artist (Praxiteles). These figures provide lessons in how to feel, how to rule, how to party, how to think and how to see. For example, Cahill contends that Odysseus reveals longing and desire for love, domestic peace and his homeland, while the rage of Achilles offers us lessons in the way to fight for one's homeland. The book is full of whimsical characterizations, such as the depiction of Socrates as a "squat, ugly, barefoot man who did not bathe too often." The author includes generous portions of the original writings in order to provide the flavor of the Greek way. Once again, Cahill gracefully opens up a world that has provided so much of Western culture's characteristic way of thinking. (On sale Oct. 28) Forecast: The most recent two titles in Cahill's Hinges of History series each have well over 200,000 hardcover copies in print, and the first printing for this is 175,000. Given Cahill's track record and this book's strengths, it should make bestseller lists. It's a main selection of the History Book Club and a BOMC selection. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Cahill does for the Greeks what he did for the Irish and the Jews in previous volumes of his "Hinges of History" series-though he points out the unfortunate legacy of militarism and the exclusion of women from citizenship. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In highly readable fashion, Cahill explores the Greeks' great gifts to Western civilization, along with some less benign bequests that continue to grieve us. It might be hard for us retroject ourselves into the Greek consciousness, suggests Cahill (How the Irish Saved Civilization, 1995, etc.), who proceeds to make it simple, situating many of our most knee-jerk responses to social, political, religious, and ethical life within the orbit of the Greek worldview. Americans, too, are a blend of circumstances and the refinement or debasement thereof: still a warrior culture ("males always primed for battle and sexual conquest"), still a bellicose society ready for war ("terrible but innate to civilization"), still Greek-dependent for our views of morality and justice in a fated universe ruled by passion. We too strive for the resourcefulness of Odysseus, tempered by "the ability to sympathize, to mourn, and to cherish familial relationships," elevated for the Greeks by the influence of wonderful Sappho. We're pursued by the Furies of guilt, take pleasure in conviviality (think keggers, for the lowest common denominator), believe in innocence by dint of hung jury, question taboos by deliberation and choice. Yes, Cahill notes, the European Enlightenment was critical, but so was Athens' "wildly participatory" democracy, likely the fallout of an alphabet that spread literacy, demystification, and irreverence. The author parades a rogue's gallery of true subversives, from Homer to Solon ("a sort of Athenian Franklin D. Roosevelt, an innovative though basically moderate statesman"), from pre-Socratic notions of atomic theory and mystery to Socrates' questing and questioning to Plato's ultimateforms. Then, late in the Grecian formula, Pericles' resolve: "The secret of happiness is freedom and the secret of freedom a brave heart." Like all things Greek, highly interpretable, allowing "the Greco-Roman turn of mind combined with Judeo-Christian values." Like having a worldly, well-versed, and imaginative uncle tell you a good story, tendering the known while fearlessly filling in the gaps with seamless, colorful graftings.

Product Details

Doubleday Publishing
Publication date:
Hinges of History Series , #4
Edition description:
Signed edition
Product dimensions:
0.59(w) x 1.15(h) x 8.74(d)

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Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well researched and in-depth. A very well written reference book to keep in your library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cahill shows himself erudite, but ever the pop historian in this latest effort. Despite the occasional plug for his other books, and a bizarre penchant for showing ancient porn that really doesn't seem necessary to his thesis, he makes a pretty good case for that the Greeks really are the fathers of Western civilization. Includes a good intro to Homer, Greek theater, and sculpture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Cahill decides to alienate half his readers , myself being one. The author will not have any further books read by me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If "Gifts of the Jews" provided a "spiritual" aspect to humankinds' journey through history, The Greeks gave human society structure, an alphabet, and an idea of the way things should work to the benefit of all humankind. Such is well presented in "Sailing the Wine Dark Sea". Again, read "Gifs of he Jews" first for continuity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lololol!!! I will store those away
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was required reading for 9th grade at my children's school. Not a good choice. Many pointless sexual themes. Too many quotes from books no high school child will have read.
Carl_in_Richland More than 1 year ago
I had the sense that the author would like to have had additional pages available for all he wanted to share. The books is filled with high level overviews of the history of the early Greeks, their worldview, their social lives, politics, philosophy and art. Each chapter picks a few specific examples to illustrate the key points (my favorite was inclusion of the famous “Funeral Oration” of Pericles, presented to illustrate the spirit of Greece in fifth century BC). So of course with over 800 years of history, art, etc. squeezed into 264 pages, much had to be omitted. Further reducing how much the author was able to include in the text was a marvelous section of photographs of Greek art and architecture. One big picture item I came away with from this book is that there were perhaps three broad categories of ‘ancient’ Greeks, these being the Greeks of Homer (tricky is good) , the Greeks of Apollo (reason is good), and the Greeks of Dionysus (religious ecstasy is best brought out by a good amphora of wine!). The subtitle of this book is ‘why the Greeks matter’ and I came away thinking the answer is that many of the problems we face today were faced by the Greeks. We have issues with our economy, over extended battlefields, divisive politics, major splits regarding who, if anybody, has the correct religion, rapidly changing moral values, etc. The ancient Greeks faced these same problems. So it’s interesting to learn how they handled these issues. This book points out that they weren’t always successful. But this book also points out that the Greeks of antiquity still gave us much to think about in our modern world. This is the perfect book to stuff in your backpack for a short vacation…clearly written with lots of surprise facts contained in the text.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Actually I was enjoying the book most of the way through. Cahill writes well, without every drab detail that most history textbooks include. My disappointment started around chapter 7 'Greco-Roman Meets Judeo-Christian' where Cahill reveals his personal secular desire for separation of church and state. Worse, he takes it a step further and jumps on the Bush-bashing bandwagon, even specifically calling out Don Rumsfeld as an imperialist and criticizing the current administration for a 'dismissive' approach to the UN. Perhaps the author hadn't noticed the UN is filled with ruthless dictators and deep corruption. Sorry Mr. Cahill, you just alienated half of your fan base.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book interesting and fun to read. It's one of those rare finds in historical readings that actually engages the reader. Over all i would say that it was a good book. The only problem i saw with it is that it did get off track at some points.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While this book presents some interesting ideas, overall, I found it lacking and at times weak. This is pop-history. It is slanted in favor of the author's ancient Greek favorites, not simply in terms of who he presents as most significant, but also in terms of who he chooses to explore and explain (i.e. heavy on Athens and Plato very light on Sparta and Aristotle, etc). This book, like the others in The Hinges of History Series look very interesting, but now I have my doubts about the others. Even with such a short book, he could have done much more with this topic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful introduction to Ancient Greek culture. Some points of his are striking to the reader, who would have never thought of such reality of the Ancient Greeks. It's amazing. It also features a number of images from artifacts, monuments and sculptures. I do remember there was one point, which I believe he saw too broadly... Blast, it's not coming to me now! Great book though!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed previous works but find this book particularly superficial and lacking any depth. Better options available.